Skype chat with the A Void issue 3 centrefold

"I want your dick to be hard, but I also want you to be thinking and feeling things," says Stoya...

LEV PARKER: Hello, I'm in the Satanic massage parlour that I call my house.

STOYA: Amazing.

LP: I’ve got a red lightbulb to attract weirdos and creeps. What does it say on your mug?

S: “Congratulations, slut.”

LP: I feel like that’s directed at me.

S: A friend of mine has an essay in the latest issue of Zero Spaces. She used to have a Tumblr where she would put her sexual expression. People could send anonymous messages, and she received one that said, “Congratulations, slut.” She thought it was funny, so she made mugs and gave the proceeds to Planned Parenthood.

LP: Merchandise is always something I do because it’s fun, but the merch ends up selling more, and taking more time than the books. I’m now a tshirt and hat vendor who happens to sell books. Is that the same for you?

S: I have the books and original instant photos, and every once in a while Steve Prue and I will do a shoot together. But I live in New York, so I don’t have the space to have a whole bunch of products.

LP: Same here, my office is getting increasingly crowded with boxes, and my wardrobe is full of clothes for other people who want to Make Peckham Shit Again.

S: Peckham is a neighbourhood, right?

LP: Yes, Peckham is like Flatbush in Brooklyn. It’s the place that’s being gentrified. By the way, do you prefer to be called Jessica or Stoya?

S: In print, I prefer Stoya, but I’ve been spending a lot of time as Jessica, doing online dating – and attempting to do it like a normal person.

LP: What does your profile say?

S: “Jessica, 32 years old, avid reader, published writer. What kind of writing? I don’t want to talk about it.”

LP: Which app do you use?

S: I started with Bumble, then I checked out Hinge, then OK Cupid, and then I was like, wait, the one who saw me on Bumble and who slid into my DM’s on Instagram happens to be somebody my dad introduced me to three years ago, he’s great. And I met a great guy through Hinge who I haven’t made out with yet, but he seems promising. But I don’t think I have the bandwidth for OK Cupid, because I need to figure out how to let a couple of guys down and spend time with the ones that I like.

LP: You asked me whether I wanted to do a video chat or email, and I assumed you were sounding me out to see if I was a time waster who wanted a free video chat. I actually prefer written communication, so we had this weird situation where you wanted to do the video chat with me. I’m flattered.

S: Well I think of myself as a writer. That’s the actual work I do. When I divide my time into chunks, a large amount of it is spent with bureaucracy and paperwork, and there’s another big chunk which is writing. So for me, I don’t want it to feel like work.

LP: I assumed this was just an introductory getting-to-know you chat, where you were making sure I wasn’t a creep.

S: There are creeps out there who make me feel weird in an uncomfortable way. But seriously, the greatest thing about my career has been all of these interesting, awesome weirdos I have attracted.

LP: Like Supervert?

S: Yes!

LP: I’ll tell him that. Or rather, he can read about us bitching about him.

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S: In all honesty, there are plenty of guys who are like “Hi, Stoya, I love you, marry me.” Aside from that, when somebody reaches out in an intellectual way, I’m usually excited because they turn out to be rad. Although my friend Molly is a painter, and she had a gallery show where there was a portrait of me in it. I went to the opening and somebody had wheat pasted all of these cards, saying, “I love you, Stoya, will you marry me?” all over the alleyway opposite the gallery. I don’t want to meet that guy. Other than that, people are generally safe.

LP: Do you meet people in the street who have seen your videos?

S: Yes.

LP: I’ve seen the porn stuff, and to be honest, it’s good, but I wouldn’t watch it as porn.

S: People who like mainstream porn don’t really like me that much. But people who are interested in sexuality but aren’t really into mainstream porn find me to be the most palatable. A lot of my success has been operating in that space in between, with things like Hysterical Literature and the Around the World in 80 Ways series, which is pretty unconventional. They attract people who don’t know what to do with my porn work, who are like, you’re hot, but this doesn’t get me off.

LP: But I wouldn’t regard Hysterical Literature as porn, it’s just hot.

S: Can you define pornography?

LP: This was a question I was going to ask you. But ok, art generally has no defined purpose, and in Perversity Think Tank, our friend Supervert attempts to answer the question, what is perversity? When I spoke to him for A Void issue 1, I asked him, “Can writing be perverse?” And he says writing such as an instruction manual definitely isn’tperverse because it has a defined purpose, and it gets a single, direct message across. I would say most pornography – at least in the video medium – is closer to a washing machine manual than to literature, as it’s single-entendre. Pornography is therefore a functional medium that intentionally arouses people. So no matter how extreme it is, most porn is the opposite of perverse because it does what it sets out to achieve, at least for some section of its target audience. What would be perverse would be pornography that did not set out to arouse the viewer, but then it would cease to be pornography.

S: I feel like the world’s biggest pervert right now, because I’m having a great life-art realisation. I spent a decade in porn, I took a long, hard look at it, and my problem with porn is it’s too basic and direct and 1-2-3-4. Pornography is not perverted and strange enough for me.

LP: But regardless of any aesthetic decoration that you want to put on it, the ultimate aim is to give people sexual arousal, right?

S: Arousal and gratification.

LP: Whereas art does not have any set aims or objectives.

S: I beg to differ. The purpose of art is to display humanity in a way that is a catalyst for others – viewers or the consumer – to think and feel and have a reaction. If you’re trying to make art and you put it out there and not a single person responds in any way, I don’t think you’ve done it. On the flipside, when you make something and there are different reactions, then you’ve done something. But art’s purpose is to generate a response.

LP: Well I sometimes go to arthouse cinema and think the aim really is to bore people. So perhaps “no response” is sometimes the intended response, and that may be the most perverse work, the really boring stuff—like the person who made a film about paint drying and submitted it to the BBFC for classification—as it does the opposite of what we think it’s supposed to do.

S: Right, and my favourite bits of feedback in the work I direct and produce are along the lines of, “it was so beautiful, my dick didn’t get hard.”

LP: You’ve gone in the opposite direction from me. I went from making confusing art with no real purpose into porn, where I am challenging myself to try and make it sexy, while you’ve gone from arousing people with porn to confusing them with art.

S: Well I want your dick to be hard, but I also want you to be feeling and thinking things. I want to see if it’s possible to hit that pitch, that balance.

LP: I don’t think it is.

S: Really?

LP: I genuinely am torn between making art and porn at the same time, and I guess the crux of it is, can you be thinking and fucking at the same time, and I don’t think you can.

S: I’m weird, and I kind of have to be intellectually engaged. When I started performing in porn, the fact of the situation was engaging. I had to put in the work to get on the same page as my fellow performer, figuring out what the boundaries were, staying aware of the camera, making sure my hair wasn’t in my face. But then that became routine, and I was still very engaged because I was thinking about the exhibitionist aspect of it, the compound exhibitionism, which worked for me for a while. Then the only things that were interesting were me directing myself or occasionally a project would pop up that I really believed in, and that’s when we turned into this meta-pornography, making porn that was about being a pornographer.

LP: You could say you were interested in the camera angle, whether the dick entering the vagina or the woman’s face as the dick enters the vagina looks better, but ultimately the reason porn is so difficult isn’t because it’s a choice between whether the dick looks better or the woman’s face looks better, one tells us more than the other, it’s about which of those looks more pleasing on a sexual level, and that’s not always as obvious as it might seem.

a void magazine issue 3

S: But I am titillated by intellectual connection and aesthetic.

LP: Me too, that’s why I prefer the face.

S: It’s possible, of course, that it’s just what gets my dick hard isn’t what gets other people’s dick hard.

LP: There are certainly people who don’t care about the face, they just want to see the dick going in the pussy, and on an artistic level, you can’t really challenge them too much, because that specific thing is what they want, and if they don’t get it they’ll switch off.

S: But perhaps that’s why requiring the intellectual engagement and being aroused by the aesthetics, it could be that I’m just a really hard sapiosexual case (meaning a person who finds intelligence attractive) and in both cases I would never be particularly satisfied by big, mass market pornography.

LP: Have you seen Debbie Does Dallas?

S: Yes.

LP: What did you make of it?

S: I thought it was a very interesting specimen from the Seventies. I found it difficult to identify with, because I’m not like any of the characters, who are almost exclusively cheerleaders and football players.

LP: I don’t identify with or aspire to be many of the characters in porn, but still sometimes find it hot. And that’s the problem with critiquing porn. I do not want to be an estate agent or a cowboy, I might find them to be reprehensible, but I might like to see a hot estate agent or a hot cowboy getting fucked.

S: The problem with people critiquing porn is they want open and shut answers. But porn is this huge thing, so many things are porn, it happens so many different ways, and there are the different ways people use porn. Now I’m known to be interested in the ways people use the work, so I’ve heard an absolute shit-tonne about what people like, what they don’t like, and for some people it really is about imagining themselves as the fucker or the fuckee. There was one particular black man who really wanted me to have sex with somebody with a black penis once, so he could have that experience of identifying. And I was like, absolutely, dude. For other people it is aspirational, while for others it’s like a nature documentary, they like watching people fuck because they’re curious.

LP: From Shakespeare to Freud to observing my own social circle, it seems like most people don’t have a very fulfilling sex life, and if you believe the distinctions made by Wilhelm Reich, even people who cum rarely have an actual, big-O orgasm, meaning the total breakdown of one’s sense of self. On the contrary, most people’s urges cause them quite a lot of torment, and often get them into serious trouble. So why isn’t castration a more popular option?

S: Well some people who have opted out, and they’re asexuals. But for everybody else, sex is such an important drive, it’s such a vital desire to pursue….

LP: Okay, I have two more questions before I have to go. One – how did you come across Supervert’s work?

S: I went down an Internet rabbit hole and found his website, PervScan, then I discovered that he wrote books, and they’re amazing, so I asked if I could use an excerpt from Necrophilia Variations for this weird art project I was doing.

LP: I will always be grateful to you for that. Finally, can you fall in love with somebody just by having sex with them?

S: Well I don’t ever have sex without any emotional connection, even if that emotional connection doesn’t have to necessarily mean something. If I’m not fully present and open, then I’m not doing it at all. And if you are fully present and open, and rubbing bits with people, then feelings happen.

Stoya was photographed for A Void issue 3 by Steve Prue.

A Void is available to Patreon subscribers and from the Morbid Books shop.

Issue 2 is available for free download:

Issue 1 is available for free download:

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